My Life : Aqua, Gray & Yellow Circus Nursery

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I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned before but I love decorating!!!  I love to look at magazines, catalogs and of course Pinterest to get ideas and then try to find a way to either DIY it or find something similar and cheaper on Craigslist.  My favorite HGTV show is the High Low Project with Sabrina Soto where she creates these $20k rooms for the homeowners and then goes back and recreates the room to match but within their $5k budget.  That is what I like to do, although my room budgets are more like $500 ;).

If I had to describe my style it would be modern beach cottage shabby chic.  Probably not a style you find in a magazine but that makes it all mine!  This style has evolved over several years as I got more confident with pulling together our house.  Big thanks to Young House Love for inspiring me to no end and showing me that I can totally do this!  I love soft pastel colors for the walls, typically in some shade of blue green or cream, crisp white trim and window treatments and pops of color throughout.  So when it came time to pull together a gender neutral nursery I knew I wanted to keep with the softer tones and pops of color with plenty of crisp white mixed in.

Planning a room when you have no idea what sex your baby will be is HARD!!!!  I started off by looking at bedding at the big box stores and I HATED everything that was “gender neutral”.  Basically anything in that category was cartoon characters.  I wanted something more modern and no cartoon characters!!!  I settled on yellow and gray pretty quickly for the colors since the room was already yellow.  I figured I could layer in the gray for the big pieces and soften it with white and yellow.  I started scouring Pinterest and baby nursery blogs for ideas, I pinned lots of ideas from decor to storage.  I also started finding DIY tutorials for things like a crib skirt, changing pad cover and of course quilts.  I saw beautiful custom bedding on Etsy but was not too keen on the $300+ price tags for a quilt, crib skirt and pillow case.  I decided at that point to dust off my sewing machine and headed over to my favorite online fabric store to see what they had.  Armed with a boat load of fabric and a list of projects I kept myself pretty busy in the evenings while David was away!

I still didn’t have a “theme” for the nursery until I came across a print on Pinterest of a carnival merry go round that was blurred out of focus in a dreamy way.  I fell in love with this print even though my husband and sister hate it :)!  The next day I was at Homegoods looking at lamps for the nursery and found this all white elephant lamp and I decided that it was fate and circus elephants became the theme.  The biggest mistake I made in the nursery which turned into the best decision was regarding the wall color.  You’ll notice above I said the walls were yellow but clearly you can see in the pics they are not yellow.  A couple years ago when we were painting that room I decided to paint it yellow knowing at some point we wanted to have kids and this would save me a future paint job since it was gender neutral!  As you know after several years walls get dinged up and need to be touched up, this is why you should save your extra paint!  Unless you are married to a man who likes to declutter the house and throws away all your extra paint cans because “there was only a little bit of paint left in the can”!  Then you find yourself down at Lowes looking for paint they no longer carry and waiting while they call the manufacturer to get the recipe and knowing all the while that buying only a qt is a bad idea.  But you do it anyway.  And then you spend your evening touching up the walls and edges at 6 months pregnant only to walk in the next morning and see every spot you touched up clear as day because it doesn’t match!!!!!  Insert sobbing here when you accept the fact that you are going to have to paint this whole !!@#$%$$#@ room again!!!!!!  Since the yellow that I loved could not seem to be duplicated I headed back to Pinterest and noticed an interesting trend to my pins for the nursery, they all had a certain wall color.  A robin’s egg blue color.  I was able to track down it was Benjamin Moore’s Robin’s Nest, armed with a sample I had Lowes color match it and viola the best nursery decision I made was born!!!!  One wall in and I knew I LOVED the color!!  Heck I was ready to repaint my bedroom the same color!  It worked beautifully with the gray and yellow and the white trim just popped next to it.  Perfection!

The biggest challenge with a gender neutral nursery is keeping it that way.  For every element I layered in I had to ask myself was it too girly or boyish and if so how could I offset that.  I figured down the line I could add in pink accents for a girl or darker gray for a boy.  In the end I’m thrilled with the results and it is my favorite room in the house!  So check out some photos with more about the items in the captions!  Also a full list of where I got everything is at the bottom!

My favorite item in the nursery is the elephant mobile I purchased off Etsy!  Love at first sight!  It could definitely be DIYed but I was DIYed out at that point so I decided it would be my splurge.
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I thought it would be fun to include a photo of me at 8 months taking photos of the room, I even matched in my striped shirt!  The rabbit on the right was a present for my 1st birthday and has been with me through thick and thin.  There is a funny story with Mr. Bunny where I thought the wrapping paper was the present and started to scream when my Dad tried to rip it open to show me the bunny inside, when the bunny fell out my scream turned into a coo :).  The elephant was something David picked up for the baby when he came back to visit for a week in July!  I loved that the two circus prints really fit with the soft tones of the wall color.  Oh and how cute is that beveled mirror!  No worries it is not held up by that thin gray ribbon, that is just for looks it is anchored on the back.  

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The two prints over the crib are also secured to the wall not only with the correct weight hangers but command strips on each side so they can’t be pulled off.  Of course they are out of the reach of little hands too.  This is my biggest decorating secret right here, 20×20 white frames with 12×12 white mats and scrapbook paper.  Yep scrapbook paper!  It is cheap, easy to switch out and looks pretty high end with the white frames.  I’ve used this same technique in other rooms in the house and I love how easy it is to change them up if I see something else I like.  Plus scrapbook paper is usually less than $1 so you can’t beat the cost.  I love hanging photos of course but I like to have balance and not overwhelm a room with photographs. 

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So the dresser was definitely a Pinterest challenge!  It started off as a plain Ikea Hemnes dresser that David had before we met.  I had thought about getting a new 6 drawer dresser for the room but this one was the perfect height for a changing table too.  Of course the 6 drawer dresser I liked was definitely more girly so this worked great because it has modern clean lines that work better for a boy.  So I sat down with a can of paint, lots of tape and spray paint.  Oh and of course a tutorial thanks to Pinterest.  Although the tutorial was not easy to understand so there was some trial and error here and don’t look too close because I know some of my lines don’t match up!  This project took me at least a week and I will NEVER do this again, it was a pain in the ^&*!@!!.  The gold pulls were from a project I had started in our bedroom with our dressers and haven’t finished.  I think they look perfect with the yellow though!  The changing station shelf and bucket were a Pinterest ripoff ;)!  Will likes to look at the reflection of the ceiling fan light in the mirror while I change him :).  Oh and the cover for the changing pad was one of my DIY projects, super easy and considering how much this kid pees when changing I need to make a few more!!!

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When it came to a crib I wanted something white and modern.  Young House Love did all the research for me when they picked this crib for their daughter, I loved the wood grain drawer at the bottom which matched the rocking chair I had for the room.  Big thank you to my mother in law for purchasing this for us!!!  THANK YOU!!!!  The bumpers, crib skirt and quilt were DIY projects of mine.  (FYI they are breathable bumpers and I may take them out once Will starts sleeping in here till he is bigger).  The patch quilt was a first for me, I had a stack of fabric scraps from my other projects so I thought it would be fun to make a quilt from them.  I pretty much had to figure it out myself because I didn’t find any direct tutorials on how to do it but it was pretty simple.  The hard part was laying out the scraps so no two were right next to each other!

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The famous elephant lamp that set the tone for the room!  On the left is the baby shower invitation I designed based off the colors and theme of the nursery.  I plan to create a baby announcement to hang in the room from that design too!  I need to blog about my baby shower too and show off the fabulous cake Kristin from Fat Girl Cakes made based off my invite design!!!

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So here are the three quilts I made and a pillowcase I made from leftover scraps!  I saw a beautiful strip quilt on Pinterest and decided to learn to make my own!  I even stippled them to secure the batting inside and finished my edges with mitred corners.  I’m pretty proud of my efforts 😉  My kid will never be cold!  haha!!

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Another view of the framed scrapbook paper!  The selection for yellow and gray was a bit slim at the craft store but these two worked great.  The gray paper actually has very small white polka dots.

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I was so excited to find this mirror, I had been scouring HomeGood’s and TJ Maxx for something round and unique but everything I could find was square or rectangles.  I checked out and found this guy for a steal!

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I had a hard time figuring out a window treatment for the room.  I was going to do floor length curtains but there isn’t much room on either side of the window so I thought they would look cramped.  There was already a blackout shade hanging there which I knew would be good for the baby during naptime so I googled ways to transform a pull up shade and found covering it with fabric seemed to be the best option.  I found the cute pennant fabric online!  The rocking chair came from my Dad and I stole it when I moved out many years ago ;).  The cushions were another pain in the !@#$% project, I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t ruffly and screamed 80’s.  Plus there weren’t really any patterns online.  So I winged it and it worked!  I even learned how to do tufting with buttons on it.  The fan was just your basic Lowes special so I upgraded the glass to clear seeded glass, added a ceiling medallion to hide the part of the ceiling that wasn’t painted and found these cute pulls, one is a fan and one is a lightbulb!  Genius!!  I bought another set for our bedroom fan and I want to get some for our kitchen fan too!

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You can see the pennant fabric a bit better here.  Also the large print is the one that I fell in love with that started the whole circus theme, the walls almost match the blue green in the carousel!

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I made the two fabric baskets on the left, I wanted something for storage but didn’t really like the IKEA baskets that fit this unit.  Plus they were expensive for what I was getting so instead I spent a couple dollars on cross stitch plastic frames and used material I already had to make these.  I followed two tutorials online and kind of pieced them together!

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My wall collage!!  I hate having empty frames so I used my scrapbook paper trick to fill these till I get the images from our newborn session printed!  I’ll probably leave a couple of them with the paper just to mix things up a bit!  Plus I will add in the baby announcement here.  I’ll have to post an update once I have photos in the frames!

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This was a present from my mother in law, it hung in my husband’s nursery when he was a baby!  I love having family heirlooms to incorporate into the room!

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I knew we were going to need more storage for this room since the water heater takes up most of the closet.  I found the armoire on Craigslist and brought it home, painted the outside gray and the inside white, added another hanging rack and added a hamper with a custom dirty laundry bag.  I used the same pulls from the dresser but painted them white.  I love the drawer organizer, I have it sorted by sizes and types of clothes to make it easier to dress Will!  That drawer is now overflowing with clothes 😉

melissa arlena yellow gray blue neutral circus nursery 201An overhead shot of one side of the room!  It’s a small room so space is kind of tight.

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Check back tomorrow for a post on our new baby with lots of photos!!


Nursery Source List :

Dresser : IKEA Hemnes (painted by me from Pinterest inspiration)

Rocking chair : Family heirloom

Storage cubby : Ikea Expedit

Armoire : Craigslist (painted by me)

Crib : Walmart

Frames : Ikea 

Elephant Mobile : Etsy seller aprilderek

Elephant Lamp : Homegoods

Bevel Mirror : Target

Bucket, Hanging bar and shelf : Ikea

Circus Prints : Etsy sellers: ScarletElla, Dreamy Photo, CarlChristensen 

Bedding and all fabric items : made by me




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  • HollieNovember 6, 2012 - 10:14 am

    This is SO gorgeous Melissa! You have so much talent!

  • Dreama SpenceNovember 6, 2012 - 10:59 am

    This is seriously one of the most beautiful nurseries I have ever seen. I am in love with that shade of aqua. Would you mind sharing with me the brand and paint color?

  • melissaNovember 6, 2012 - 12:00 pm

    The color is Benjamin Moore Robin’s Nest, I went by and got a paint chip sample of it and then took it to Lowes and had them color match it! It’s in the greens which seemed weird to me because it goes on much bluer!

  • OFD ConsultingNovember 6, 2012 - 12:07 pm

    I’ve been admittedly pretty jazzed about seeing this after all of the instagram sneak peeks. Well done lady! 🙂

  • Dreama SpenceNovember 6, 2012 - 12:24 pm


    Thank you! Never use BM for paint, usually Behr, but I’m sure I could match it!

  • heatherNovember 6, 2012 - 4:41 pm

    gorgeous Melissa!! You did an amazing job 🙂

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